Come talk a little college round-ball.
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- The Curmudgeon
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When the buzzer sounded on April 4, 1992, Dawn Staley's teammates knew she would need some help just getting back to the locker room. She was devastated, her college playing career over, a national championship not won after Staley's Virginia team lost to Stanford in the national semifinals.
"I was exhausted, because I wanted it so much," Staley said. "I put so much work and energy into being a national champion that the emotion was just to cry. To let it out. And 25 years later, no tears. Just going to enjoy it."
Because Sunday night, Staley finally got the happy ending to a season that eluded her when she was a college point guard. Her South Carolina Gamecocks won the NCAA women's basketball title with a 67-55 victory over Mississippi State, and one of the most popular, well-liked figures in her sport had at last gotten the prize.
"When I couldn't get it done in college," Staley said, "I thought that was it."
But the quest that went unfulfilled then actually was still just the early part of Staley's basketball journey. She would go on to win three Olympic gold medals. She would be part of the launch of the ABL, and then also play in the WNBA. She would become a college coach, something she once thought she'd never do.
And as she stood in the hallway of the American Airlines Center on Sunday after cutting down the nets, among the many emotions swirling inside Staley were relief and gratitude.
Staley is just the second African-American coach to win the NCAA women's basketball title. Carolyn Peck was the first, leading Purdue to the 1999 national championship. Staley commended Peck for leading the way.
"A few years ago, she gave me a piece of her national championship net. She told me to keep it," Staley said. "I've had it in my wallet for years. She said, 'When you win your national championship, just return it.'
"I'm going to have to pass a piece of my net on to somebody else so they can share and hopefully accomplish something as big as this."[...]
God, Country, Notre Dame
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